Things to Know About Florida Mechanics Liens
Florida’s construction lien laws provide substantial protection for contractors and suppliers. However, there are many requirements that must be followed in order for a construction participant to qualify for, maintain, perfect, and enforce mechanics lien rights. This page answers frequently asked questions about rules and requirements for filing mechanics liens in Florida. It includes the lien statutes a breakdown of the lien and notice details for contractors and suppliers in Florida.
You may want to consult our Step-by-Step Guide on How to File a Florida Mechanics Lien.
Who can file a mechanics lien in Florida?
In most cases, Florida mechanics lien law grants lien rights to prime contractors, subcontractors, sub-subs, laborers, material suppliers to owner/contractor/sub/or sub-sub, and design professionals (architect, landscape architect, interior designer, engineer, surveyor or mapper). Florida does not require that you have a written contract to file a mechanics lien, so contracts can be oral, written, express or implied. However, the following parties do not have any rights to file a Florida mechanics lien:
- Sub-sub-subcontractors (those hired by sub-subs)
- Suppliers to suppliers
- Suppliers to sub-sub-subcontractors
- Maintenance workers (In order to qualify for a mechanics lien in Florida, the work and/or materials provided must permanently improve the property)
Recently, we wrote about landscapers and whether they have rights under Florida law, which was addressed recently by a Florida appeals court. As explained in that article, “a landscaping company ‘planting for landscaping purposes’ is considered a contribution to the permanent improvement. However, simple landscaping maintenance services (like lawn mowing) does not qualify.” Further, a court in a recent Florida case (2011) gave a detailed discussion of who can and cannot file liens under Florida’s lien laws.Furthermore, in order to have lien rights in Florida, a license is a prerequisite for those entities by which license is required by Florida law. If a contractor is not licensed as required, the sub’s, sub-sub’s, and supplier’s lien rights are not affected.
Waiving lien rights
A lien waiver can be dangerous, because it gives up a party’s right to file a mechanics lien for the amount in the waiver. As a result, Florida’s lien waiver rules are strict. The statute is specific about the lien waiver forms that are allowed, including the language required on them. Florida’s lien waiver form is called a Waiver and Release.
How to protect your lien rights in Florida
Anyone who didn’t contract directly with the property owner must deliver a preliminary notice (known in Florida as a Notice to Owner) to secure their mechanics lien rights. This notice must be served certified mail, with return receipt requested within 45 days of first furnishing labor and/or materials to the project, except for two small exceptions: (1) individual wage-laborers are not required to send an NTO, nor are (2) architects, engineers, or other design professionals. Failure to provide this notice is fatal to mechanics lien rights.
Property owners may request from their direct contractors (i.e. general contractors) a list of subcontractors and suppliers that are working on the project. If that happens, the contractor must supply within 10 days from the request a list of all subcontractors and suppliers that they have hired.
As to whom must receive the notice, the following rules apply:
- If hired by the general contractor, send the notice to the property owner.
- If hired by a subcontractor, send the notice to the property owner and the general contractor.
- If hired by a sub-subcontractor, send the notice to the property owner, the general contractor and the subcontractor.
If you don’t know who these parties are, don’t fret. Florida’s notice to owner laws allows you to rely on specifically publicly available information.
Information to include in your Florida mechanics lien claim
To properly file a Florida mechanics lien, the claim must contain all of the required information. The information needed includes:
- Claimant’s information
- Hiring party’s information
- Description of labor and/or materials provided and the contract price/value
- Property description
- Owner’s information
- First and last dates of furnishing labor and/or materials
- Amount claimed (including finance charges)
- Be careful, as exaggerating lien amounts in Florida is a 3rd-degree felony
- Date and method the NTO was served
- Required statutory warning found under §713.08(3)
Filing a Florida mechanics lien
Filing a Florida mechanics lien is a fairly simple process. This involves filling out the proper Claim of Lien form, serving a copy of the lien to the property owner, and filing the claim in the county recorder’s office where the property is located.
As far as the deadline to file, the general rule is that the mechanics lien must be filed within 90 days from the last day they provided labor, services or materials to a construction or renovation project. The 90-day period begins to count down when the substantive portion of your work is completed, and you cannot include the correction of deficiencies in work, punch-list work, or warranty work in determining this date. For equipment rental companies specifically, the last date of furnishing is the last date the equipment was actually on-site and available to the parties for use.
When recording your Florida mechanics lien, be careful where you are recording. While most counties maintain property records with the Clerk of Court, there are some exceptional counties in which a designated “County Recorder” is responsible for property records. Determine ahead of time where you must file your lien so that you don’t become confused and miss your deadline.
Discharging a Florida mechanics lien
If you’ve been paid, there is no specific statute that requires the claimant to file a lien release. Typically, final payment will be exchanged for a release. Failure to do so could make the claimant potentially liable for any damages or costs incurred by the owner to remove the claim of lien from their property title.
Enforcing a Florida mechanics lien
If you have not been paid, a Florida mechanics lien must be enforced through a lien foreclosure action within 1 year from the date on which the lien was recorded. If no action is taken within the one-year timeframe, then the lien claim will expire and no longer be enforceable.
However, the 1-year foreclosure period can be shortened by the property owner to as little as 60 or 20 days from when the lien is recorded, via the following enforcement deadline exceptions:
- The foreclosure period is reduced to 60 days after the lien is filed if the property owner serves a Notice of Contest of Lien.
- The foreclosure period is reduced to 20 days after the lien is filed if the owner or interested party files a lawsuit complaint and the county clerk issues a summons to the lienor.